The British and Irish Lions start their NZ tour with a pussycat meow

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    The bookmakers gave odds of $1 to $1.01 on a victory for the 2017 British and Irish Lions to win their first game of their New Zealand against a New Zealand Barbarians side made up of part-time professional rugby players who had never played together.

    The odds on the New Zealand Barbarians winning were $15 to $1.

    But the game ended with a scoreline of 13-7 to the Lions, and the New Zealand Barbarians pressing hard to score a try and a conversion to win the match.

    The tour was almost derailed at its onset by a totally unexpected outcome.

    From the first indications of the lacklustre, unimaginative, slow-witted play of the tourists, Warren Gatland’s team could become the first pride of Lions that meow rather than roar.

    If this seems to be too harsh an initial judgment, look at the opposition, reckoned by the bookmakers as impossibilities to even get close to a victory against the visitors.

    The Barbarians had players from 14 New Zealand provinces. Bryn Gatland, their star player and the son of the Lions’ coach, failed to win a full-time Super Rugby contract with the Crusaders or the Blues.

    Wales' head coach Warren Gatland

    (Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

    Aside from Gatland and 18-year-old Jack Stratton, the Barbarians halfback, none of the players have played first class rugby this season. The players came out of club rugby around New Zealand. One of the players had retired and was selected as a gesture to his long service to the Wanganui union.

    The captain of the side and one of the best players on the field, Sam Anderson-Heather, resumes his career today (Monday) at his property maintenance company.

    The point to note about all this is that this scratch side, with many of its players being in their early 20s, which turned down easy penalties in the Barbarians tradition (unlike the Lions), competed successfully with the grizzled might of British and Irish forward power in the set pieces and at the ruck and mauls.

    For me, this was the main trigger warning for Gatland’s Lions.

    A pack of star internationals, playing their traditional smash and grab game, could not overwhelm a collection of all-sorts players from the provinces of New Zealand.

    If the Lions can’t overpower their New Zealand opponents in the forwards, they are not going to win many games on this tour.

    Moreover, virtually all the ingenuity and skill in the back play came from these same all-sorts provincials against a backline studded with the great names of British and Irish rugby.

    As Gregor Paul pointed out in the New Zealand Herald: “The problems as they presented in Whangarei were significantly deeper than the (Lions) players not quite knowing each other. The real issue was that the Lions looked decidedly pedestrian in all that they did – not so much physically, but mentally.

    “They didn’t have the natural instincts to pounce on opportunities when they came. They didn’t have the alertness, that intensity of awareness that has come, among other things, to differentiate New Zealand sides from everyone else in Super Rugby.”

    For years – decades, in fact – I have been banging on about the virtues of the New Zealand all-court system of playing rugby (and between 1996-2003, Rod Macqueen’s Brumbies and Wallabies).

    I have argued that when the players get the fitness, both mental and physical, the skills and the understanding to play this all-court game, they have given themselves the best chance of winning most of their matches.

    Of course, sides playing the over-structured, forward obsessed, smash-up in the backs, kick the penalties game favoured by British and more recently, unfortunately, by Australian sides, will sometimes win.

    But you can’t build dynasties on the restricted game.

    You can build dynasties, as the All Blacks between 2011 and 2016 and the 1999-2003 Wallabies have proven, by playing the all-court game at speed, with bravery and with high skill.

    A case in point from this weekend’s Super Rugby round was the Force versus Hurricanes match at Perth.

    The home side tried lineout maul after lineout maul to score against the visitors. None of the mauls resulted in points.

    The Force finally scored early on in the second half when they rampaged with a maul and then followed up with a towering bomb to force a Hurricanes error on their own line for Dane Haylett-Petty to score the try. Finally, they tried some clever play and were duly rewarded.

    The Hurricanes, with Nehe Milner-Skudder on the field shortly after this, escalated the scoreline from 17-12 to 34-17, with three break-out tries, one of them from the kick-off.

    Hurricanes’ Nehe Milner Skudde

    (Credit:SNPA / Ross Setford)

    This is the advantage of the all-court game. You can score points quickly with bunches of tries.

    The Hurricanes had played defence for long periods of time with the rugby equivalent of baseline rallies (against the baseline rallies game of the Force) and then, when the opportunities opened up, they scored easy points by rushing to the net and putting away winning volleys.

    And earlier in the day, the Waratahs were put to the sword by the Chiefs (despite a short late-term resurgence by the visitors) 46-31, six tries to four. Again, it was the all-court game of the Chiefs that destroyed the one-dimensional game of the Waratahs

    The point about the variety involved in the all-court game is that it requires all the players to have high skills, from 1 to 15, and for the playmakers to take their skills to the highest level. This means that any time the team gets on a roll, they have the potential to score a try.

    Watching the Waratahs playing their one-dimensional game, can anyone in Australian rugby seriously make the case that Israel Folau, the highest paid Australian player, has improved his rugby in the last three years since the Lions tour of Australia in 2013?

    Can anyone seriously make the case that he is remotely close to, say, Damian McKenzie as a player who makes a significant influence on the outcome of matches he plays in?

    Even James Lowe, who is leaving New Zealand despite being only 23 because he can’t make the All Blacks squad, was better value to his side than Folau.

    The fact that excessively talented players in Australia (think Folau, Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale) do not kick on to greatness is one of the main weaknesses in the game in this country.

    Israel Folau Waratahs Super Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    The main reason for this is talented players like Folau are allowed to coast through matches, doing the occasional brilliant thing, but not taking control of the match like McKenzie, the Barretts, Ben Smith and all the other playmakers lighting up the New Zealand sides.

    Everyone involved with rugby in Australia, the Super Rugby franchises, the ARU, supporters, commentators and journalists, need to be more demanding of the coaches and the players in the Australian Conference.

    If we accept a mediocrity that occasionally rises to the brilliant, we will continue to get more mediocrity from our players.

    This is why I endorse Michael Cheika’s approach to selecting his Wallaby squad for the June Tests. He has discarded older players who have coasted and shown only occasional energy and passion in their game. He has brought a number of young players, the latest being Jake Gordon for the injured Nick Phipps, who have some fire in the belly and skills that stand up under pressure.

    Hopefully, Cheika is going to select his starting XV on what he has seen this season and at training about how the players are responding to his call for the Wallabies to go back to the hard and skilful running game and the abrasive forward play of the early 2000s when they reigned supreme in world rugby.

    If the Wallabies do not adopt the all-court New Zealand/Macqueen game this year, the major championships will continue to escape their grasp.

    Getting back to the Lions match, I was interested in a comment made by Justin Marshall that sums up for me how poor commentary is totally unhelpful to players needing to improve and for supporters wanting to their team to shape up against a combative opposition.

    I don’t want to make a habit of bagging Marshall. I did so last week about his penchant for making inaccurate judgments of refereeing rulings (Greg Martin is a serial offender, too).

    However, someone has to call out the influence of inaccurate media commentary and biased attitudes on players and coaches understanding what is going wrong with their performances.

    Towards the end of the match, Marshall was asked, as a former All Black halfback, how he thought the Lions halfback, Greig Laidlaw, had played.

    “Good,” Marshall replied. And then, possibly trying to ingratiate himself to British audiences watching the game, he added: “Very good.”

    What utter nonsense. Laidlaw stood over the rucked ball for an eternity while his forwards slowly lined up like ducks to be shot down, or tackled down, as easy targets.

    He rarely cleared the ball with any speed. He was pedestrian in his thinking about which runners to pass to and, in general, he was out-played by a kid with one first-class game to his credit.

    One of the main reasons why the Lions played like pussycats in the backs was because Laidlaw’s service from the rucks, lineouts and scrums was so slow and laboured.

    Marshall should have acknowledged this.

    Compare Laidlaw’s play with that of TG Perenara of the Hurricanes against the Force. To my mind, you had to go back to the glory days of Gareth Edwards to see a halfback with the passing, running, tackling skills that the Hurricanes captain showcased in Perth.

    TJ Perenara Hurricanes Super Rugby Rugby Union 2016

    (AAP Image/SNPA, Ross Setford)

    Perenara also turned over ball at rucks, something that the Great Gareth never did in his heydey.

    The all-court game requires a halfback with the energy and speed to get to every ruck and get rid of the ball quickly and accurately. The halfback, too, has to have an ice-cool judgment to pick out which runners to hit with flat passes and when to pass behind the first line to unleash the second line of attack.

    Laidlaw was totally at sea in fulfilling these requirements.

    A better judgment on Laidlaw’s play came from the old curmudgeon himself, Richard Loe, in his column in the New Zealand Herald: “If halfback (Greig Laidlaw) and fullback (Stuart Hogg) are the best Scottish rugby players, no wonder no others got picked.”

    Before the opening match of the tour, Warren Gatland said: “Hopefully the plan is to (shock and awe) New Zealand. I said to the players this morning, ‘If we’ve got a four-on-two on our goal-line, then you’ve got to move the ball and do something. I don’t want you to play by numbers.'”

    The only shock and awe that came out of the match was that felt by Lions supporters, and perhaps players, amazed at the performance of the New Zealand Barbarians and disappointed with the play of the Lions.

    Unfortunately, players who have only really played by numbers throughout their careers will continue to play the numbers even when advised not to.

    I was interested in the comments of Stephen Jones, the British rugby writer who resolutely espouses the “playing by numbers” game as a much better alternative to the expansive all-court game played by Rod Macqueen’s Wallabies and the All Blacks more recently.

    According to Jones, any criticism of the Lions is “preposterous” because of the imposition of a “dangerous shocker of an itinerary on the cream of British and Irish rugby.”

    Welcome to the world of Super Rugby, Mr Jones.

    The Blues travelling from Auckland and the Reds from Brisbane played a terrific match on Friday night, in a hot sauna bath atmosphere at Apia, with the Reds having four days to acclimatise themselves and the Blues only two days.

    The cream of British and Irish rugby should have been able to walk off the plane on landing in New Zealand and then thrashed the makeshift New Zealand Barbarians side.

    It will be interesting to see what the bookmaker odds are on the Lions for their match against the Blues on Wednesday.

    Another poor performance by the Lions won’t be able to be written off due to travel fatigue, as it will be the Blues who have done the travelling.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (142)

    • Roar Guru

      June 5th 2017 @ 9:33am
      Sam Taulelei said | June 5th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

      Valid question to ask Gatland Snr – why didn’t you send an advance party of players to Melbourne to prepare for the opener and join them later with the rest of the squad to arrive in NZ together?

      Too late and pointless to criticise the schedule, and tight preparation time now. It’s been known for months.

      • June 5th 2017 @ 9:40am
        Whakaata said | June 5th 2017 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Myself and others have raised this exact point many times on this and other forums.
        The excuse of Jetlag is pathetic and should never have been a factor, they had plenty of time to send 23 men down ahead of this first game.
        The Lions are accusing Kiwis of arrogance when if you look at it from another perspective it is they (Lions) who are arrogant because they thought they could just rock on up to Toll Stadium and beat the hell out of guys who can’t even get a start for their provinces let alone a Super Rugby franchise.
        They have known for a very long time what their tour schedule was and they agreed to it, they also requested to play Super Rugby franchises, there is absolutely no sympathy from me.

        • June 5th 2017 @ 10:11am
          Ryan said | June 5th 2017 @ 10:11am | ! Report

          Add me to that list.

        • Roar Guru

          June 5th 2017 @ 11:32am
          Poth Ale said | June 5th 2017 @ 11:32am | ! Report

          So when could this team of 23 players have arrived and who would the 23 have been?

          • June 5th 2017 @ 6:26pm
            Jacko said | June 5th 2017 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

            All internationals Pot…Unlike the opposition on Saturday night

          • June 5th 2017 @ 8:14pm
            Ray1973 said | June 5th 2017 @ 8:14pm | ! Report

            The blokes who dont play for Exeter , Wasps , Munster and Scarlets . The rest could have come early they were together a week they should have gone to NZ .

        • June 5th 2017 @ 11:47am
          Fionn said | June 5th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

          I haven’t heard the Lions accuse the Kiwis of being arrogant. A few fans and a few people in the media have, but it is hardly a majority.

          The majority of the Lions, their fans and the British and Irish media have been kind and humble to the Kiwis; just like a majority of the All Blacks, the NZ fans and the New Zealand media have been kind and humble towards the Lions.

            • Roar Guru

              June 5th 2017 @ 12:19pm
              Poth Ale said | June 5th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

              That’s one former player, now media pundit, giving his view. And saying that they’ve earned the right to be arrogant. That supports what Fionn is saying.

            • June 5th 2017 @ 12:48pm
              Akari said | June 5th 2017 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

              I saw that this morning, Whakaata. I chuckled as I read it and thought that Ben Kay was actually being complimentary to Kiwis and their supporters. That was my view of it.

              • June 5th 2017 @ 6:33pm
                Jacko said | June 5th 2017 @ 6:33pm | ! Report

                Ben Kay is still only one ex player tho…I dont see either side as arrogant but I think way to much is made about the arrogance thing. To me arrogance is a word used wrongly so many times in the press or by fans of a losing side. The modern sports person has to believe in their ability to win, their ability to be better than the opposition and their ability to overcome all situations thrown at them. Saying “I believe we will win” is not arrogance in today’s world as that is how they are coached by mind coaches etc.

        • June 5th 2017 @ 3:04pm
          superba said | June 5th 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

          Whakaata
          Where is the comment documented that the Lions ” thought they could rock up to Toll stadium and beat the hell out of the Baabaas “. Where is the quote and by which of the Lions team or their management? .
          Please provide it .
          Or is this hearsay becomes fact .??

          • June 5th 2017 @ 3:55pm
            Whakaata said | June 5th 2017 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

            Did I use it as a quote?

            • June 5th 2017 @ 5:45pm
              superba said | June 5th 2017 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

              xWhakaata
              What then is the basis for your comment wrt the Lions being arrogant ?

          • June 5th 2017 @ 8:19pm
            Quin said | June 5th 2017 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

            I can say now that the general feeling at my own footy club is that the Lions were a little over confident in the short turn around so Whakaatas post isn’t too far off the mark.

        • June 5th 2017 @ 4:29pm
          double agent said | June 5th 2017 @ 4:29pm | ! Report

          Couldn’t get a start for their provinces? Wtf?

          • June 5th 2017 @ 7:50pm
            Quin said | June 5th 2017 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

            That is true many of these guys don’t have regular starting spots for their provinces. One guy the vice captain I think it was plays the Heartland Championship for Wanganui. This Baabaas team were rank outsiders full of guys well down the pecking order I terms of NZ rugby. Bryn Gatland for example is realistically 3rd or 4th choice 10 for the Blues. Behind, Francis, West and possibly equal with, Pereforta (excuse spelling)

      • June 6th 2017 @ 2:31am
        Colin N said | June 6th 2017 @ 2:31am | ! Report

        They had sponsorship commitments Sam, that’s why. The Lions had a ‘leaving dinner’ on the Sunday, the day after the domestic finals, so they had an obligation to fulfil.

        I don’t think the coaches were partcularly happy about it but it’s the reason why they arrived later.

        • June 6th 2017 @ 7:32am
          Quin said | June 6th 2017 @ 7:32am | ! Report

          As has been said elsewhere by other posters.
          If that’s the case then no one else is to blame except Lions management and the jetlag excuse is simply inexcusable.

    • June 5th 2017 @ 9:41am
      zhenry said | June 5th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

      “A “dangerous shocker of an itinerary on the cream of British and Irish rugby.”…..
      Well it is, a week of climatisation should be mandatory for touring international teams, getting off the plane on Wed and playing Sat was cruel.
      On the other hand the English response to AB share of UK gate takings (not perfunctionary, but a substantial offering) had the pomposity and cruelty of the British colonial past – the recent head of English rugby has retired.
      Ignoring the huge difference of size and money between U.K. and NZ rugby and facilities is absolutely not acceptable, no wonder NZRU have deemed it a priority to get as much money from the tour as possible. For years the British have ignored raking the loot from the ABs with full UK (and Euro) stadia, which in no way compare to NZ gate takings.
      Re the 1st game, I think the Lions would be happy that they demonstrated their defence, the attack combinations will come later.

      • June 5th 2017 @ 9:47am
        Whakaata said | June 5th 2017 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        The Lions chose not to send down a 23 early zhenry, their lack of acclimatisation is theirs and theirs alone to bear no one else’s.

        • June 5th 2017 @ 10:21am
          zhenry said | June 5th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

          OK Whakaata. Think championship games in U.K./Euro complicated things and assembling the complete team was also factor. Not sure how much Input Lions had into itinerary.

          • June 5th 2017 @ 11:31am
            Whakaata said | June 5th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            zhenry, again they still could have sent down 23 players, not all 41 players played in that championship. They had more than enough players in the respective positions to be able to assemble a midweek squad and send them out to New Zealand.

            • Roar Guru

              June 5th 2017 @ 2:46pm
              Rugby Fan said | June 5th 2017 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

              Which 23 could have gone down?

              • Roar Guru

                June 5th 2017 @ 6:24pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 5th 2017 @ 6:24pm | ! Report

                In the Lions 23 against NZ Baa-Baas, 22 of the 23 could have been sent down a week earlier (only Elliot Daily on the bench came just before take off to NZ).
                And all in all, the Lions could have sent 30 players down south a week earlier, only 11 players were involved in the finals.

              • June 5th 2017 @ 8:23pm
                Quin said | June 5th 2017 @ 8:23pm | ! Report

                It is a little mind boggling that the Lions didn’t send down the guys from the non finals sides earlier. The claims of Jetlag don’t stack up when you take into consideration that only 1 of the player if what Sweden is saying is true played in that final. not one person has given a explanation as to why they didnt come out earlier.

              • Roar Guru

                June 5th 2017 @ 9:19pm
                The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 5th 2017 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

                Quin

                The reason why they did not choose to send down players earlier is that they want build togetherness within the squad. They state this is key for the whole squad to feel involved through the whole tour (the same argument they use for the selections policy in the first three games, that everyone will get a start) and everyone should do everything together.
                This idea is Ian McGeechan’s baby, who claims that some previous tours have been unsuccessful due to the squad not being together and feeling like ONE team.

                If this is smart or not, we just have to wait and see.

        • June 5th 2017 @ 10:26am
          Dopplerman said | June 5th 2017 @ 10:26am | ! Report

          Difference between a problem and an excuse ! They just played poorly !

      • Roar Guru

        June 5th 2017 @ 11:43am
        Poth Ale said | June 5th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

        U.K., English, British, Euro.

        Who do you mean, zhenry? It’s not an AB share of UK gate takings – whatever that means.

        The huge difference of size and money between U.K. and NZ rugby. Are you comparing the whole of the UK or do you mean England Rugby?

        No one is blaming the NZRU for the itinerary. It was decided by Lions Rugby – no one else. The season structure is the responsibility of the Six Nations and clubs. Nothing to do with SANZAAR. Don’t know why some fans think the complaint is being directed South.

        • June 5th 2017 @ 11:48am
          Whakaata said | June 5th 2017 @ 11:48am | ! Report

          Well if that is true then the Lions and their fans have absolutely no right to complain about Jetlag as they (Lions management) decided when what where and how.
          Why is it so hard to admit that a team of fully paid professionals, the top 40 odd players from four nations struggled to beat a side comprised of players who have day jobs and struggle to get starts in Provincial teams. A team who had only been together a week and never played a match together before.

          • Roar Guru

            June 5th 2017 @ 11:56am
            Poth Ale said | June 5th 2017 @ 11:56am | ! Report

            What are you blithering on about? Have you read any European media articles about the game?

            The players and coaches including Gatland don’t decide the timing of the tour, Lions rugby administrators have to work within the constraints of the season schedule. It’s been known for over two years that the players couldn’t be fully assembled until after the league/cup finals.

            It’s not a complaint about jet lag – it’s a reality that they have to contend with.

            And every single commentator that I’ve read has acknowledged how good the Barbarians were. Try reading a little more and inform yourself.

            • June 5th 2017 @ 12:17pm
              Whakaata said | June 5th 2017 @ 12:17pm | ! Report

              No the reality is they could have assembled 23 players and got them here with more than a week to prepare. Stop holding onto this notion that every single player played in the final.
              How many Lions touring players were in this Final Pot Ale?
              Even with the semi-finals taking place on the 20th that still gave the Lions roughly 2 weeks to get a squad of 23 down to NZ for their first match.
              The large portion of the Lions squad have had just as much time if not longer than the NZ Babarians to train together.
              The FACT remains the NZ Baabaa’s team are 4th and 5th tier players playing against supposedly some of the world’s best.
              The Lions were poor and no matter how many weak excuses people come up with they should have done much better. No ifs buts or maybes. They have had years to prepare for this tour and put contingency plans in place, all fault lies squarely at the foot of the Home Nations unions and their domestic leagues. Super Rugby has managed to start earlier during world cup years and has been taking breaks to accommodate the inbound tours for years. Why have the North not taken the Lions tours into consideration?
              Ask yourself that then come on here bleating about jetlag because quite frankly I am sick of hearing the excuses when your own should have been far more proactive.
              NZRU and world rugby have said this is our window, the Lions as you admit have known about this for years.

              • Roar Guru

                June 5th 2017 @ 12:28pm
                Poth Ale said | June 5th 2017 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

                I’m not holding onto any notion that every single player played in the final. I know exactly who finished when, and when they were available.

                You seem to think that they could have split the team and sent players sooner. Fine, that’s your call. The Lions management considered it and decided differently.

                No one is arguing that the Lions played well. They were very poor. Everyone has said so. You’re whinging about something that no one supports. Try reading a bit more instead of sounding off. I haven’t said anything about jet lag – you’re the one raising it.

              • June 5th 2017 @ 12:37pm
                Whakaata said | June 5th 2017 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

                I am raising it because it is constantly the one excuse thrown out ad nauseum on here and from media and Gatland himself.
                They knew the deal they had options available to them they chose not to take them.
                So how about shut everyone up and hammer the Blues, a loss to the Blues will then really get everyone fired up as the Lions are expected to win all these lead up matches and be a chance at the tests.
                After all, they have brought the best 40 odd players from four nations.

              • June 5th 2017 @ 12:51pm
                moaman said | June 5th 2017 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

                FWIW i read in the Guardian ( I think) that they could have sent an advance party but opted to have all players attend a dinner together on the eve of their departure…..

                ps I think “jet-lag” is a pathetic excuse particularly after a stopover in Melbourne.

                pps Agree with Fionn above and would like to add that all this name-calling (“arrogant” etc) is juvenile in the extreme.Ignore that rubbish and concentrate on the rugby ffs!

              • Roar Guru

                June 5th 2017 @ 1:01pm
                Poth Ale said | June 5th 2017 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

                The Lions might win two of the non-test matches besides the Ba-Baas match.

                Doubt they’ll beat the Blues.

              • June 5th 2017 @ 1:14pm
                Whakaata said | June 5th 2017 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

                I think they will beat the Blues because they have had so much grief about their performance from fans and punters alike (me included).
                A loss to the Blues will be unbearable as they are the lowest of the NZ teams (Barbarians aside).
                A loss to the Crusaders will be disappointing to Lions fans but somewhat easier to stomach than a loss to the Blues as the Crusaders are on an unbeaten streak and are on current form would beat a number of international teams.
                If the Blues do manage a win over the Lions it will leave many Blues fans wondering what if? in regards to Super Rugby

              • Roar Guru

                June 5th 2017 @ 3:29pm
                taylorman said | June 5th 2017 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

                Whereas I think the Blues will beat them.

                Amazing how so many can’t take things at face value.

                Some of the best players in the NH can’t put away a scratch third division equivalent side.

                Between that, the Lions horrendous record, hopeless coach/ captain combination, the facts support a Blues win.

                Yet everyone dances around the elephant in the room which suggests these guys are a terrible outfit, quoting rustiness, jet lag etc etc.

                Look at what in front of you I say.

              • June 5th 2017 @ 4:00pm
                Whakaata said | June 5th 2017 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

                The only players who could not have been here a week out from the game were those playing in the final.
                But too many people as you say Taylorman would rather find excuses than play what was in front of them.
                As yet hardly anyone has even acknowledged how lowly the Barbarians rank in the wider scheme of things.
                For people many in here, it’s easier to make excuses, jet lagged or not they should have pumped this Barbarians team.

              • June 5th 2017 @ 7:54pm
                Quin said | June 5th 2017 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

                If what Neutral from Sweden is saying above is true above, re 22 of the 23 from the Lions being available to come down a week earlier it just highlights how poorly calculated the decision making was from the teams decision makers is.

          • June 5th 2017 @ 8:23pm
            Ray1973 said | June 5th 2017 @ 8:23pm | ! Report

            Oh Whakaata , they still won though . I dont think the supporters are moaning that are in NZ . And there are many up here making comments on the first game . The DTs top journalist and former England player Moore said to the Lions in simple terms to suck it up because it doesnt get easier . I think after game 1 heaps of kiwis are laying in the boot a bit and its apparent that mistakes have been made . This is a decent squad who have 1 goal to be competitive against the ABs . God help us if our ABs get beaten . I think kiwis could chill out a bit . In the end its just a game

            • June 5th 2017 @ 8:27pm
              Quin said | June 5th 2017 @ 8:27pm | ! Report

              They may have won but they really should have beaten them by a shed load more. That is the point Whakaata and Taylorman are making. To ignore the 6pt margin when comparing the relative strengths and weaknesses of these two teams is to ignore some serious warning signs.
              There is a huge gulf in class between these two teams and even with 3-4 days in Australasia the Lions really should have put the Baabaas to the sword and some.

        • June 6th 2017 @ 12:58am
          zhenry said | June 6th 2017 @ 12:58am | ! Report

          Save the hot air for yourself Poth Ale.
          I was responding to Spiro’s quote from Stephen Jones which begins my comment above. On this occasion (he also has hot air) but has a point in my opinion: coming from the other side of the world and playing 3 days later is difficult.
          I don’t know how the itinerary was compiled but surely NZRU had something to do with it, however that is not my point, regardless who compiled it Lions have a very punishing tour, and a tour that pretty much maximises profit for NZRU via gate takings.
          Again regardless of the creators of the itinerary I think NZ have a right to take maximum profits, especially in light of the outburst by the recently retired head of English rugby, who completely opposed the ABs right to take a fair share of Twickernam gate taking during their end of year tour. For years the ABs have been filling stadia in U.K/ Euro – 80000-90000 odd crowds (compared to roughly half that in NZ) – and the ABs don’t get a penny of it.
          I have been advocating for years that NZRU get a fair share of those gates of year ending tours, and recently the NZRU have finally requested as much, which caused the outburst from now retired Eng rugby head. We will wait and see what happens but understandably NZ want parity of financial returns regards tours.
          In my comments above and here I take the opportunity of plugging for the NZRU cause.

          As far as your comments Poth Ale re difference between 6 nations and SANZA you no where you can put them.

          • June 6th 2017 @ 11:55am
            Neil Back said | June 6th 2017 @ 11:55am | ! Report

            To be honest, anyone referring to British colonial cruelty to make their current point probably needs a major reality slap. Try to pull yourself into this century champ.

            • June 6th 2017 @ 2:15pm
              zhenry said | June 6th 2017 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

              A journalist for one of the corporate media owners?
              Always denigrate the writer anyway you can; avoid at all costs reasoned and civilised argument – we corporate media have our agenda and you lackeys (NBlack on this occasion) obey or else get out.

              • June 6th 2017 @ 4:18pm
                Neil Back said | June 6th 2017 @ 4:18pm | ! Report

                No idea what you’re talking about.

      • June 5th 2017 @ 4:31pm
        double agent said | June 5th 2017 @ 4:31pm | ! Report

        Liverpool got off the plane at 10am and flogged Sydney FC at 8pm that night.

        • June 5th 2017 @ 10:18pm
          Neil Back said | June 5th 2017 @ 10:18pm | ! Report

          Mate, that’s twice on two different threads you’ve dragged that already dead horse into the town square for a pointless flogging. No one responds because it’s beyond response. I’ll try to help you though.

          Go away and really, really, really try to think of just four massively obvious reasons why the comparison doesn’t work on any level.

          I’ll admit, I have my doubts you’ll manage it.

          • June 6th 2017 @ 9:15am
            Concerned Supporter said | June 6th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

            Neil Back,
            Dont belittle other posters. I am not a soccer supporter, but give credit where credit is due
            Ctowd of 72,000 better than NRL usually 12,000 or thereabouts
            Super Rugby cròwds this season in Australia have been dismal

            • June 6th 2017 @ 11:38am
              Neil Back said | June 6th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

              And there’s me thinking I was helping him.

      • June 7th 2017 @ 1:38pm
        FunBus said | June 7th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

        So let me get this right, zhenry. NZ demand that uniquely in the international game the rules about gate money distribution should be torn up just in the case of England v the ABs so that England give a vast chunk of their revenue to NZ and it’s ENGLAND that are arrogant?

    • June 5th 2017 @ 10:03am
      R2D2 said | June 5th 2017 @ 10:03am | ! Report

      Ugly, but the Lions can not play that badly again, surely. The Ba Ba’s had nothing to lose and were committed to the cause. Maybe the Lion’s needed a fright , but it will only get harder from here.

    • June 5th 2017 @ 10:14am
      BL said | June 5th 2017 @ 10:14am | ! Report

      Folks

      Interesting to note that two Barbarian run on players were from Cook Island heritage Sam Anderson- Heath – Hooker and Captain & Jonah Lowe the Winger

      Just goes to show how culturally diverse rugby can be in New Zealand – well done Cook Islands !

      • Roar Guru

        June 5th 2017 @ 11:46am
        Poth Ale said | June 5th 2017 @ 11:46am | ! Report

        And the tighthead prop Ollie Jager was born in London from Dutch parents and grew up in Ireland learning rugby there before moving to Canterbury. Played with Garry Ringrose in schools cup and hopes to get selected for Ireland at some point, although he’s now resident 3 years in NZ, and has got an SR contract I think.

        • Roar Guru

          June 5th 2017 @ 6:35pm
          The Neutral View From Sweden said | June 5th 2017 @ 6:35pm | ! Report

          Ollie Jager is a very interesting prospect.
          Don’t remember at what podcast I heard it, but what I heard was that there are some people down in Canterbury – Razor being the loudest one – that are trying to convince Jager to stay in NZ long term because if he continues to develop like he has done so far, he looks like future All Blacks material.

          Anyone else who can share some light on this?

        • June 5th 2017 @ 7:02pm
          Cuw said | June 5th 2017 @ 7:02pm | ! Report

          Razor may be interested most probably becoz he is still young and huge – kind of Tongan Thor 🙂

          and maybe the days are numbered for Crokett , who is also a very big prop.

          He played for Canterbury last year and is in Crusaders squad , but i cannot recall if he played super rugger . since the 4 props have been more or less permanent fixtures on rotation. (Moody Franks Crokett Alalaatoa )

    • June 5th 2017 @ 10:15am
      Homer said | June 5th 2017 @ 10:15am | ! Report

      Anyone else willing to bet me a notional fiver that the Lions win no more games on this tour?

      Seriously.

      If they can’t beat a team that is weaker than any of the big nine provincial unions then the jig is well and truly up. Once they start getting beaten then the NZ momentum will accelerate and everyone including NZ Maori will fancy their chances and pile on.

      If their pack can’t shunt the Baabaas into the stands (Baabaas that do not include a single fully professional player and which includes not one of the top 150 NZ players), then there is something rotten about it.

      If they can’t turn a lineout into a maul and roll over the Baabaas from 15 metres out then they are truly dire.

      If they can’t break through an un-practiced defence at least once every quarter in the midfield then they’ve got no chance against the Super sides let alone the ABs.

      Only one other possibility springs to mind – that they deliberately held their fire for some crazy strategic reason.

      I now sense an epic tour in which they go home with … nothing – and half the team jump ship and head off for a beer with Keith Murdoch to avoid the pillory when they land.

      Everyone is kindly saying jetlag and limited prep time are the reasons they failed to utterly crush a ‘Meads Cup’ team.

      Nope. They were awful because they are just awful. And Gatland is a poor coach too. I have no idea why he has been kept on so long. Yes he won with the Lions against Australia but – ahem – it was Australia. Nuff said.

      • Roar Guru

        June 5th 2017 @ 3:30pm
        taylorman said | June 5th 2017 @ 3:30pm | ! Report

        Tend to agree with the theme, but they will beat one or more of the AB less Super sides.

      • June 5th 2017 @ 8:27pm
        Ray1973 said | June 5th 2017 @ 8:27pm | ! Report

        I will bro , I dont think the Lions are done yet . Once they actually get there shit together it will surprise plenty of kiwis . . As soon as Kruis and Farrell came on with tpuric things changed quickly . The Baabaa boys had a dig as you would expect , jesus if your given half a shot against the cream of the NH you would definitely lift . Gats is rubbish true that , BUT there are too many solid players to write this lot off .

        • Roar Guru

          June 5th 2017 @ 10:21pm
          taylorman said | June 5th 2017 @ 10:21pm | ! Report

          Yes that’s logically true, we still await it’s practical application, two very different things. I think right now they’re a very nervous bunch.

        • June 6th 2017 @ 7:57am
          Homer said | June 6th 2017 @ 7:57am | ! Report

          Cheers Ray. One imaginary fiver slapped down on the table by me. Whack!
          Let the games begin.

    • June 5th 2017 @ 10:34am
      John said | June 5th 2017 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      Israel Folau again paying the Zavos family bills! #clickbait

      • June 5th 2017 @ 11:41am
        Fionn said | June 5th 2017 @ 11:41am | ! Report

        It is a rather quick backflip.

        Rather like how he oscillates between wanting the Brumbies cut and thinking they are the most deserving team in the comp.

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